Sunday morning, my mom, the hubby and I were up early for a pre-race breakfast and arrived at Halfmoon Lake in the Pinckney Recreation Area with plenty of time to get me signed in and set up for the Ann Arbor Triathlon.
I put my race numbers on my equipment. A volunteer wrote my identifying information on my body with permanent marker (which still hasn’t come off after a swim and two showers). And I set up my transition area.
Then I tested the temperature of the lake, which was 75 degrees F – plenty warm for a comfortable swim. I squeezed in my final snack, porta-potty visit and a little warm up jog before walking down to the water for the start.
All of the women were starting together in the second wave, so I wandered down to the congregation of people in blue swim caps and met some other tri-women.
The women were very encouraging, giving me tips for my first triathlon. They said that the Ann Arbor is one of the hardest courses in the area, so I should not let its difficulty discourage me from trying tri again if I wasn’t entirely happy with my race. They also pointed out that if I had a slow swim, that would account for only two or three minutes – something I could easily make up in the bike and run.
Finally, it was time to start! The high level men started in the first wave. Then the women followed three minutes later.
We were off! I made sure that I stayed off to the side of the group so there wouldn’t be many people around me. As we started into the lake, I found that the other swimmers didn’t bother me much and the lack of visibility in the water was not a big deal. Nonetheless, I got scared – not panicky but I just couldn’t slow my breathing down into a rhythm for swimming. I tried several times to settle into the freestyle stroke like I’ve practiced so much over the last few months, but I couldn’t do it. So, I decided that my next fastest option was the back stroke. It let me focus on calming my breathing while I just kept moving in the water.
The group of women pulled farther and farther ahead of me except for two or three other slow swimmers. As I paddled away on my back, I knew that I could finish the swim. Because of the lovely women before the race, I was OK with the fact that it was just going to be slow. And I was not going to let the swim stop me from finishing this race. About 23 minutes in, I ran out of the water and up a long hill to transition. I was unhappy with the swim but determined to take advantage of my stronger bike and run legs.
My transition from the swim to the bike went really smoothly. I moved quickly but stayed relaxed. The run from the water through the exit of the transition took 3 minutes.
Now it was time for the bike! Fourteen miles seemed like an easy ride, even with the constant rolling hills. We rode the streets around the lake that we had just swum and then back into the park again. I definitely pushed my legs and kept a strong pace, but I was ready to kick butt in the run and knew I had the legs left to do it.
The second transition was a quick minute and a half, since all I had to do was take off my helmet and gloves and change into my running shoes.
My family was amazing. My mom, my husband, my dad and his fiancée were at every transition point loudly cheering me on and capturing the moments on camera. I was so happy knowing that they would be there rooting for me throughout the race.
I knew that the run course was going to be challenging. It was almost entirely on a dirt trail through the woods. The path was narrow enough that every pass required an “on your left” and shift to the right by the person being overtaken. There were some long hills, some steep hills and some sandy areas. I heard one woman before the race worry that she would have to walk up one particular hill. I did have to walk a couple times, but only for a few quad-burning seconds.
The trail was indeed tough, but I was pushing it and feeling great! Every time I saw another woman ahead of me, I knew I could catch and pass her. I passed a lot of people during the run. Each time I came upon another woman racer, I checked her right calf where each of us had our age written in permanent marker. I was so excited when I flew by a girl in my age group! That meant that I was one person closer to placing in my age group, which was one of my goals for the day.
Coming out of the woods, we ran about a half mile on the road back into the park. On a long uphill grade, I was sure that I was going to run out of gas. My hip was sore and I thought that I would have to drag myself in the final mile. But amazingly, I got a second wind as we entered the park and I knew I was almost done.
I kicked a strong pace past the transition area and down the hill back toward the lake. The hubby was there screaming for me as he ran alongside the tape.
I took the final turn and raced down the shoot across the finish line. Final time 2:01:41 – faster than I expected, especially with the slow swim! I was so incredibly happy and proud.
I finished the swim despite the mental struggle, I rode a good bike portion, and I really ran strong meeting both my bike and run time goals. I passed a lot of people making up places that had I lost in the swim.
When we checked the results board, I had worked up to 5th place in my age group (from last after the swim) as of the finish of the bike. Since I passed one of the women ahead of me during the run, that meant a 4th place finish in my age group! Awards went to the top five in each group, which meant that I earned myself a medal!
Here it is! The fourth place medal. Maybe next time I’ll get one of those cool trophies!
Thanks to everyone who gave me support, encouragement and advice as I trained for my first triathlon. I had a great time, satisfied an abundance of goals and have concrete things to work on to improve for future races.
I can now officially say that I AM A TRIATHLETE!
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Swim 0.5 miles – 23:21 (It was a really slow swim, but if I worked on it and actually swam freestyle, I could take 4 minutes off my time moving me up several places in the rankings. I was last in my age group for the swim portion, 5th for the bike and 3rd for the run. An improved swim would really help me finish better – and under 2 hours, which would be awesome!)
Bike 14 miles – 49:34 (16.9 mph average)
Run 5 miles – 44:16 (8:52 average mile pace)
Total time with transitions – 2:01:41
4th place in 30-34 Women
191st out of 269 overall